Step 9 of AA: How to Make Amends

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What happens in Step 8 and Step 9 of AA? What does AA say about the process for making amends?

Step 9 of AA is how to make amends. After making a list of people you’ve hurt, you make amends to them in Step 9 of AA.

Read on to learn more about Step 9 of AA, how to make amends, and the purpose of these parts of the AA program.

AA: How to Make Amends

Step 8 and Step 9 of AA are about repairing your misdoings from the past. Where you had previously harmed others, you must now be willing to apologize for that harm and relieve your guilt. In Step 8, you make a list of all people you’ve harmed and become willing to make amends. You don’t need to make amends yet—you just need to be prepared to do so.

“We made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

After you make your list in Step 8, your goal is to correct your mistake directly with the people you hurt in Step 9 of AA. An amendment isn’t just an apology—it’s an act to solve a problem from the past.

The Big Book gives these recommendations for how to make amends:

  • Approach with a sincere desire to set right the wrong. Say that you’ll never get over drinking until you’ve straightened out the past completely. You have now changed as a human being.
  • Don’t approach and say you’ve gone religious. You risk being branded a religious fanatic and not being taken seriously. Use your behavior in the moment to convince them that you’re changing.
  • Do not criticize or argue with them. You’re not there to discuss the other person’s faults. Stick to your own.
  • Most often, by hearing your vulnerability, the person admits his own fault in this situation. This can melt away years of resentment for both of you.
  • Don’t be servile or begging. “As God’s people we stand on our feet; we don’t crawl before anyone.”
  • If your past misdeeds involved other people, secure their consent to being part of your making amends. For instance, if you’ve committed adultery, get consent from the person you were involved with.

Leave almost no one out of your amends in Step 9 of AA. If you have any fear of your past or guilt over past actions, that may drive you back to the bottle. If you fear the outcome of your approach, leave it in your higher power’s hands—after all, if you don’t make amends, all is lost anyway.

  • More people are more forgiving than you think. Even people you owe money too may understand.
  • At times, admitting something to someone might get you in jail (such as not paying alimony to your spouse). In this case, try to ask for forgiveness and show you’ve changed as a person, so you won’t be sent to jail.

Here are the few exceptions to consider in making amends during Step 9 of AA:

  • If you’re certain you’d go to jail, consider that you’d be doing no one any good by being in jail. Consider another way of making amends.
  • If you have to confess to adultery, don’t involve the other person by revealing the identity to the person you’re making amends with.

There are some wrongs you can never fully right. Don’t worry about them if you can honestly say to yourself that you could right them if you could.

Ongoing Amends in Step 9 of AA

Recovery is an ongoing process, not a one-time step. Step 9 of AA won’t fix it forever. Old habits die hard, and at times you’ll slip into your old behavior. If you allow resentment to build up, they’ll balloon into major problems, and you’ll experience a setback.

From now on, if you make a mistake, promptly admit it and make amends.

Continue to watch yourself for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear. If they come up, ask your higher power at once to remove them. Discuss them with someone immediately, and make amends quickly. Then turn your thoughts to someone you can help.

Step 9 of AA: How to Make Amends

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Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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